On September 14 at UFC Vancouver, Louis Smolka will step back into the Octagon for the third time since parting ways with the company after a December 2017 loss.
“Da Last Samurai” will do battle with 10-1 Ryan MacDonald, but it wasn’t long ago when the 28-year-old Hawaiian was uncertain if he would ever fight again. Smolka went through a well-documented internal struggle that found the once-promising flyweight drinking and partying to excess and unable to find the motivation to continue fighting.
“I didn’t want to fight anymore,” Smolka told Mike Heck of The Body Lock. “I was over it. I just wanted to keep drinking. I didn’t want to do anything and, I don’t know, it was just like a big roller coaster for me.”
After three straight victories on the regional scene, Smolka got the call to come back home to the UFC. It was a “feel good” moment for both Smolka and his fans who knew the struggles he had faced.
“Da Last Samurai” was not content with merely being back in the company. Smolka took advantage of his second chance, submitting Su Mudaerji in the second round.
“I was just so relieved. I was just so happy. I was like ‘oh my god, I made it back,’ I was just so relieved. I didn’t completely screw myself; I still got a chance to, you know, make some things right.”
“I just didn’t want to be a bitch about it”
Smolka didn’t bask in the glow of his triumphant return for long, taking a fight with the dangerous Matt Schnell less than four months after submitting Mudaerji. The fight was a stop back at bantamweight for Schnell, who is now the #10 ranked flyweight in the company.
Smolka’s battle started long before stepping inside the Octagon with Schnell. There won’t be an asterisk next to the loss in the record books, but Smolka suffered from the beginning of training camp to minutes before the fight. The Hawaiian sustained a knee injury at the beginning of training camp rendering grappling impossible. Smolka was only able to work on his stand up and admittedly couldn’t train fully in that area either.
While he was finally ready to hit the mats late into camp, Smolka caught the flu during fight week, ultimately requiring antibiotics. The antibiotics seemed to work until Smolka started cutting weight. The cut triggered a relapse of the illness, rendering Smolka unable to drink water without vomiting.
“I couldn’t even drink water during warmups ’cause I kept throwing it back up,” Smolka told Mike Heck.
“That probably wasn’t smart, but at the time, I was just like “don’t be a bitch.” I was telling myself like I just didn’t want to be a b-tch about it. I didn’t want to be one of those guys who pulls out in the back, and everyone’s like “what the f**k?” I just didn’t want to be that guy. It is what it is. It wasn’t my night, so, yeah.”
Smolka in the UFC: Act 2, Chapter 3
Smolka will head into his UFC Vancouver clash with Ryan MacDonald healthy after a six-month layoff. “Da Last Samurai” sees the positives in his foe’s game, specifically his size and versatility, but also recognizes some holes that leave him confident he will leave Canada with the victory.
“It’s an interesting fight. He’s big, and he’s well-versed. I always believe I can win. I feel like I see some holes, I see some things I want to go after and, you know, I’m ready to try to get back in the win column. I’m ready, I’m hungry.”
It will be Smolka’s third fight in the UFC training with Team Oyama. After parting ways with the UFC, Smolka packed up to California to train full time at the gym. The team played an intricate part in getting Smolka back to the octagon and also helped him realize and face his inner demons. Smolka will benefit significantly from another full camp with the red-hot gym who will provide Smolka with top-flight training partners, many of who are also preparing to do battle in the coming weeks.
“We’re training at high altitude right now at Big Bear. Carla Esparza is in the next room. She’s getting ready for her fight in Mexico City. I’m up here and I’m ready to go… “Chito” (UFC bantamweight Marlon Vera) has been one of my main sparring partners. Chito has been helping me a lot… You got guys constantly getting ready for fights. There’s like a whole bunch of fights the week after me, too. We’ve got a lot of dudes up here. We’ve got a lot of guys up here getting ready, man.”
Smolka is a far cry from the fighter and man he once was 18 months ago. The Hawaiian freed himself from the stranglehold of alcohol that has claimed many lives and careers. Smolka may never have been in a better position in his career; no longer harming his body to cut to flyweight and his at one of the premier gyms in the country. Smolka’s accomplishments, both personal and professional, since December 2017 are remarkable. Louis knows, more than most, how fast things can be taken from you in life and knows what he needs to do on September 14th in Vancouver.
“Honestly, I just want to get the win. I’m gonna beat him up, I’m gonna stay on him, I’m gonna pressure him. We’re at high altitude right now, my cardio should be good and I’m going to try to break him. ”
Smolka will take on Ryan MacDonald on the prelims of UFC Vancouver on ESPN+.
To see Mike Heck’s full interview with Louis Smolka, check out the video down below.
A 29-year-old paralegal by day, but I rather write. MMA nut since '04.